Canucks Army Postgame: Things are looking up, win 4-0 over Flames

It’s preseason, and it’s important to remember that the Calgary Flames are still playing without Johnny Gaudreau – arguably their best offensively player – in the lineup.

Ah, but really, who cares? Canucks had themselves a game, and it was a lot of fun to watch. 

FINAL SCORE: 4-0, VANCOUVER

Sup, guys! It’s Cat Silverman, back from maternity leave to drop some preseason takes for you all. 

I turned this game on expecting to be disappointed. I watched Vancouver’s preseason tilt against the Arizona Coyotes – which, at the time, saw their most experienced lineup iced to that date in the preseason – and didn’t love what I saw. I knew the Sedins and Eriksson were making their debuts, but so was Sean Monahan for Calgary; things could have gone south somewhat fast. 

Instead, I saw a more composed Canucks roster than I’ve seen since they made the playoffs over a year ago. 

It’s still preseason, yes, it’s worth repeating that until we’re blue in the face. Remember when the 2008 Detroit Lions swept the NFL preseason, then recorded the league’s first 0-16 record? Good times. 

For a late preseason game, though, I thought the Canucks did exactly what they were supposed to. The players with the most to prove, for the most part, did just that. The veterans returning put up strong showings, despite playing in a game that ‘doesn’t matter’. The goaltending was effective, and the team looked like… well, a team. 

The Sedins and Eriksson

First game back, and they already looked like a midseason-form trio. Could get used to this. 

Sven Baertschi and Jake Virtanen

Holy cow. 

These are two guys who came into the preseason determined to prove that they could live up to expectations – and boy, did they ever. 

Baertschi put up the team’s best possession numbers with a whopping 61.9 CF%, while Virtanen found the back of the net on the second goal of the game. Both players were incredibly effective, and they looked like they knew how to play together. I won’t hate seeing Virtanen maybe get some AHL time this year, particularly if he ends up struggling at any point – but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing him and Baertschi continue to play like that together, either. 

Erik Gudbranson

Every stats pundit who criticized the Erik Gudbranson trade (including myself) pointed to a subpar possession history for the defenseman as part of the problem with his acquisition this summer – but so far this preseason, he’s actually been a reasonably strong possession player on the blue line. Tonight, he finished with a 50 CF% even, putting up the second best numbers on defense behind only golden boy Ben Hutton. 

Remind yourself it’s only preseason, rinse, repeat. Still. It’s certainly promising. 

At the moment, it’s hard to tell if Gudbranson’s improvement in possession is due to being a better fit in Vancouver’s system, or if it’s just a byproduct of playing preseason hockey instead of regular season action. His actual play was somewhat underwhelming, but that could just be because he lacks the dynamic edge to his game that playmakers like Hutton have. We’ll see as the years goes by. 

Odds and Ends

  • I noticed that the Canucks started off the game particularly strong, but they petered out as the game went on – something they certainly did last year, and got burned by on quite a few occasions. In the final period, the Canucks had a major flatline in their scoring attempts. Yes, they were winning – and by a decent margin – so it could just be the byproduct of score effects. If the Canucks continue to be a weak third period team this year in close games, though, their subpar finish from 2016 may end up being repeated. 
  • I mentioned how I was somewhat underwhelmed by Gudbranson’s play during the game, but I was a good bit more underwhelmed by Philip Larsen. I know he’s someone you may be rooting strongly for, but I just felt like he was a step behind a few too many times. 
  • Ryan Miller’s biggest weaknesses to me, when he signed his current deal with Vancouver, were his adaptability and his injury risk. He’s older – therefore more likely to get hurt – and hadn’t seemed willing to adapt his style to the modern era of the NHL. It’s obviously too soon to tell if he’ll be injury-prone this year, but as for his game’s evolution? It’s noticeable – and that’s a good thing. He looked great tonight. 
  • The penalty kill burned Vancouver in their last preseason tilt, but that wasn’t the case tonight. The team went 3 for 3 on the PK – unlike against the Coyotes, when they dropped a 4-2 decision almost exclusively due to their defense on Arizona’s man advantage. 
  • Brandon Sutter had a good game *ducks the calculators being thrown at my head*

Stats for the Nerds

chart

Catherine out. 

    • Miller tends to challenge shooters (top of the crease) and rely on his instinct and athleticism rather than sitting deeper in the crease and relying on positioning (e.g. John Quick). Melanson teaches that style but we knew when Miller was signed that he wasn’t going to let Melanson change how he plays (even though Melanson’s teachings are effective, see Markstrom as an example). How a goaltender plays affects how the defence sets up and reacts.

      • TheRealPB

        Congrats on the baby — I take it that helps to explain the 4AM posts?

        To be fair to the Flames, they weren’t dressing most of their better players but their fringe players didn’t look too great. Head to head Granlund’s starting to look like a better bet the more I see Shinkaruk play.

        Is the waiver period 24 hours? I remember the claim on Corrado came in fairly late, wondering if any teams have made any claims this preseason so far.

        • Whackanuck

          Agree on Granlund. He looks better than people give him credit, especially when he plays with some decent wingers. Unfortunately, I don’t see room for him in the middle six centers. He still struggles with faceoffs(44%) so maybe wing is the best place for him. But where? LW with Sutter and Hansen?

  • defenceman factory

    Did anyone see anything that resembled an NHL calibre defenceman watching Sbisa tonight? We have serious contenders in camp and solid prospects already waived and in junior. Exposing him to the expansion draft has to be the only reason he is around.

    • Dirty30

      Hey, he also delivers pizzas!

      Ah fudge … Even I can’t find any humour in that situation anymore.

      With the added depth and skill on D it’s so much more difficult to continue to see Sbisa having any role on this team besides expansion draft-bait.

    • Alex14

      Granlund played in the middle with these two guys and played with Baertschi in an earlier game and they looked great together. I say keep these two together !

  • The_Blueline

    Good to see Baer and JV having a strong game. Loved how Baer protected the puck before the 2nd goal. Hope this game ended the ‘JV to Utica” discussion.

  • EddyC

    Hi Cat, I know there is a stat for goaltenders where it is weighted to the prime shot location. How did our goalies do last year compared to the league and do you think that Gubranson will help in those situations because he clears the front of the net? I hope this makes sense.

    • Hi Eddy!

      This does make sense. I’d have to look up the data for danger-specific save percentage (which gives us a broader understanding of what general locations shots are being saved from the best) but I don’t recall either Miller or Markstrom being particularly below average.

      As for Guddy, that depends. His underlying numbers suggest he isn’t actually as good at clearing in front of the net as advertised – after all, poor relative possession numbers are often partially caused by an uptick in shots allowed when a player is on the ice as opposed to when he’s off – but in theory, yes, a good net-clearing defenseman helps the goaltender. Not as much as a good puck moving, transitional defender, in my opinion, but it would still help nonetheless.

  • krutov

    They looked like a team that is starting to figure out how to play together. JV deserves a spot. Spizza needs to be on with either eriksson or virtanen so they can go get the puck back when he gives it up. Larsson needs a further look. Skille is a better choice than dorsett, and I would still like to see Gaunce in the middle and Granlund on the wing for an extended look.

    Nice to win a game for once, even if they didnt have most thier good players other than Monahan.

    also sometimes I wonder what kind of meds john Garret is on, at one point he said the flames goalie johnson “has had a great night and given up 4 goals in 20 shots” sometimes I think Shorthouse doesn’t even know how to respond. makes me chuckle.

  • Me

    Good game all around I thought. Did Granlund even make any plays last year like he did last night? And has done throughout this preseason? He’s looking more comfortable.
    Best moment was after Wideman’s brain fart high stick that put the puck On Loui’s stick for his second goal….Wideman on the bench….with that concussed look on his face. Priceless.

  • Me

    Management and the coaching staff are going to be making some hard decisions which is a good thing. There will be injuries hope not to the extent of last year so will have good depth and have call ups that can help the team rather than just filling a pair of skates.
    I would keep Vertanen so he can improve his NHL game. Worried he will be challenged and gooned in AHL because of his size and style. Don’t need him to get injured. He knows he has to work hard every night and cannot coast otherwise he will be sent to the farm.

  • krutov

    sbisa was the best news of the game. not great play but decent for the first game back and good enough paired with larsen that we maybe don’t have to break up the top pair. we actually have a third pairing.

    tryamkin and larsen was a complete train wreck by comparison.

    sbisa is a much better player right now than tryamkin or pedan. we should be glad we have him.

    • krutov

      Of all the d-men who played 600+ minutes last season, Sbisa was 191 out of 197 d-men in possession. He actually accomplished that with more offensive zone starts than defensive.

      The 8 guys below him all started in their own zone by much larger margins.

      There is a strong argument that Sbisa was the worst d-man in the league last year.

      So I applaud your satire.

      • Alex14

        There are also other stats I have seen posted about Sbisa that make him appear a far better defenseman than people seem willing to give him credit for. Please don’t ask me what they are but they have appeared here in CA. Simple point…it’s way too easy to take stats out of context. What was that famous quote….”lies, damned lies and statistics”. So I applaud your cherry picking, you fit right in with several of the CA bloggers.

  • Me

    Re: Sbisa.

    Here’s a theory. I know I’m reading the tea leaves here, but there might be something to it. The Canucks sent Pedan down yesterday, which hints that they want to keep Biega up until he hits 19 games so he’s expansion-draft eligible. Why do that when Sbisa would fit that role? Maybe there’s a trade in the winds, maybe they intend to leave him on the bench all year. Either way, I think it’s entirely possible the only ice he sees this year is in his pre-game martinis.

  • krutov

    possession stats be damned.

    i actually watched sbisa, tryamkin and pedan play recently. sbisa is at this time significantly better at playing left defence than the other two.

    now you may perhaps argue we should have a better guy than any of these three guys but right now sbisa is the best we’ve got and he appears to be the only one good enough to fulfill the role we need.